Beyond the Politics of RU-486: What women really need to know about the abortion pill.

Health Canada has finally approved the use of the abortion pill, RU-486 in Canada. It is expected to be available in January 2016. 


What is it?

  •  The drug will be sold under the brand name Mifegymiso in Canada.

  •  Mifegymiso is actually two drugs: Mifepristone and misoprostol.


When can you take it?

  •  Mifegymiso will be used to terminate pregnancies of up to 7 weeks (49 days from the first day of the last period).


How can you get it?

  •  Women will need to obtain a prescription from a doctor after having an ultrasound.

  •  Initially prescriptions will probably only be available through doctors who already provide abortion services.


How does it work?

  •  Mifepristone is taken first (one tablet), this blocks production of progesterone, needed to sustain a pregnancy.

  •  Misoprostol is taken 24-48 hours later (four tablets). This causes the uterus to contract and relaxes the opening of the cervix. Vaginal bleeding usually starts a few hours later.


What actually happens?

  •  On average, bleeding lasts 11 days, but it’s normal to have some bleeding or spotting for 2-4 weeks.

  •  The passage of clots is common – like a heavy period because the lining of the uterus is thicker. Clots may be large (size of a loonie) for the first few days.

  •  Cramping happens as the uterus contracts and returns to its usual size.


Side effects?

  •  Medical abortion is like an early miscarriage. It is normal to have bleeding and cramping.

  •  You might also feel dizzy, have a headache, diarrhea, experience temporary flushes or sweats and feel nauseous or vomit.


What to watch out for?

  •  Women should start to feel better each day after the abortion.

  •  Serious complications have warning signs, such as:

      •  heavy bleeding that soaks through 2 sanitary pads an hour, for 2 hours or more in a row

      •  abdominal pain that is not helped by medication, rest or a hot water bottle

      •  a fever of 38°C or higher

      •  an unpleasant-smelling discharge from your vagina

      •  no bleeding 24 hours after using misoprostol


How safe is it?

  •  Medical abortions are very common, safe and unlikely to cause any complications.

  •  Problems with first trimester abortions are rare.

  •  Mifepristone is approved in more than 50 countries. It has been approved for use in the United States for about 15 years. It was first licensed in France in 1988.